Opening Testimony in Cuyler Murder Trial Includes Police and Coworkers
The murder trial of Cuyler man accused of strangling his wife to death last July got underway Tuesday in Cortland County Court, prosecutors presented a number of witnesses.
County District Attorney Mark Suben took nearly an hour to deliver his opening statements in the case, Suben told jurors in the days ahead he would show how 44 year old Keith Pottorff killed his wife back on July 17th and then proceeded to immediately begin to spend her money to support his out of control drug habit.
Suben also told jurors the peoples case is comprised of circumstantial evidence as there was no eye witness to the crime, but the weight of that evidence will prove that only one person killed 53 year old Janet Pottorff and that is her husband.
Pottorff’s Defense Attorney Ira Pesserilo spent far less time laying out his case, he told jurors that detectives never had any other suspect in mind in connection with Janet Pottorff’s death, they simply tailored the evidence to support their theory that Keith Pottorff murdered his wife. Pesserilo asked jurors to question all the evidence and decide the case for themselves.
Prosecutors called member of the New York State Police who handles various aspects of the investigation including State Trooper Jeffrey Carr who responded to the couple’s home at 5769 Dog Hollow Road back on July 20th for a missing person investigation.
Co-workers of Janet Pottorff had contacted police after she did not come to work at the Cortland Regional Medical Center where she was employed as a nurse. Pottorff’s co-workers became suspicious after Keith Pottorff had called in sick for his wife on Wednesday the 18th and Thursday the 19th.
Several co-workers testified including Ann Marie Novak who spoke to Pottorff the second day he called in, she informed Pottorff that his wife was not scheduled to work that day, Novak said she had a bad feeling that something was wrong, since Janet would not have called in that close to the start of her shift and had never mixed up her days off.
Pesserilo attempted to show that the woman’s co-workers did not like Keith Pottorff because of his previous criminal record, his drug abuse, and the age difference between the two.
Novak also indicated that Janet had been looking to work extra hours to help pay down debt she had accumulated and recently sought to have the couple’s home and sole vehicle put in her name after Keith’s vehicle had been repossessed.
Novak also told jurors that Janet had confided in her that she was looking to get Keith into drug rehabilitation because he has returned to drug use.
Later State Police investigator Dan Laske testified about going to the Grass Roots Festival in Trumansburg where Pottorff had been located on July 20th, three days after prosecutors say Janet had been murdered. Police say they recovered the woman’s debit card and check book from a tent that Pottorff had been staying in.
Pottorff is also accused of using his dead wife’s bank debit card at various businesses and cashing a $975 dollar check from her account at First Niagara Bank.
Pottorff has denied any involvement in his wife’s death and insists she was alive when he left for the concert.
Pottorff has previous convictions of burglary and criminal possession of a forged instrument; he served state prison time in connection with those charges. If he is found guilty of the murder charge Pottorff faces 25 years to life in prison, he is currently being held without bail. Testimony resumes today, Broome county medical examiner Dr. James Terzian who performed the autopsy on Janet Pottorff is expected to testify.